(Photo above: Mikel Pircey, a junior majoring in environmental sustainability, is the coordinator for UW Tacoma's Giving Garden.)
On January 19, 2009 more than 80 volunteers showed up to remove blackberry, morning glory and other invasive species from a lot near what is now the University Y. The group also installed four raised garden beds at UW Tacoma’s Giving Garden. From these modest beginnings sprouted an idea.
Much has changed at the Giving Garden during the past 10 years. For starters it’s in a new location on the corner of 21st Street and Fawcett Avenue. The garden now boasts 33 raised beds, multiple fruit trees, a native plant walk and Sustainable Hub for Education and Demonstration (SHED). Recently, the garden received a $30,000 donation to fund the position of Giving Garden Coordinator for three years. “My job includes creating and executing a growing plan for the season, mid-summer and fall,” said coordinator Mikel Pircey.
Pircey is a junior majoring in environmental sustainability. She started in the role of coordinator this past February and hit the ground running. Pircey partnered with UW Tacoma’s Professional Development Center and 7 Seas Brewery on a project to grow hops for the craft beer program. She also teamed up with a local girl scout in an effort to attract more bees to the grounds. “They [the girl and her mom] planted a pollinator bed and brought mason bee houses,” said Pircey.
Other projects in the works include a collaboration with UW Tacoma Senior Lecturer Lauren Montgomery. “She’ll be bringing up students for one of her classes in the fall of 2019,” said Pircey. “They’re going to come for an hour or two every week and we’ll be designing projects to fit within their curriculum.”
Perhaps the biggest development is the commitment of nearly $14,000 in funding from the campus's Services and Activities Fee committee. “We’ve never received anything besides grants and donations, so this is huge,” said Pircey. “This will allow us to add 20 more raised beds and hire two more part-time students.”
During last year’s growing season the Giving Garden produced about 200 pounds of fruits and vegetables. Most of that food was donated to The Pantry. “We have a passion for fighting food insecurity, growing sustainable food in an urban-setting and educating people on their food sources,” said Pircey. “With the addition of beds, as well as blueberry bushes and possibly other fruit trees I really think we can double the amount of produce donated to The Pantry.”
Donating food is one thing, but Pircey plans to go a step further. “We’re arranging cooking classes where students can learn to utilize the produce,” she said. Pircey has also looked to increase output at the garden by stretching the growing season. “I’d love to see us use cool weather crops to sustain students over the winter,” she said.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org